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Service dog handler lobby

Discussion in 'Employment, Education & Disability' started by Kefira, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if this will be helpful or not, but in the currently active SD thread I've seen a lot of really useful tips and a lot of validation. I didn't see a thread like this, and I thought maybe those of us who have SDs could use a place to post with questions/tips/successes/access issues and know some other people who get it will see it.

    It might also be helpful for people looking into service dogs to have a thread they can find under search that gives some real life experiences and concerns. I know for me hanging out in handler spaces when I was considering was very helpful.

    So I figured I'd start a thread and tag in a few people who have been active on the other thread, and if it's not useful I'm sure it will die out and no harm done.

    @Justmehere @JustBe @desiderata310 @lostforgottensoul
    I know there are many more handlers here and of course anyone is welcome, but I figured I'd seed it with the people I've noticed being pretty active in my skimming of the other thread that's up.
    littleoc, SeanCharles, Rain and 9 others like this.
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  3. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    I'll start with a question I really want to ask of other people who have issues with being non-verbal under stress: I know several people mentioned using hand signals. I'm curious to know two things:

    What signals you use (hand signals or other cues) and whether this was intuitive or you found/were taught a specific system
    What two or three commands do you feel you couldn't do without. Don't have to be tasks.

    For us, we're in the process of developing hand signals because his organization is very voice command based, so I've been on my own to add the signals, and I have trouble picking them for some things, but he's very good at targeting in various ways. For instance he can differentiate between interact with this target and lay against this target.

    We use an "under" command where he curls around my ankles behind them, going under from the side of my leg while I'm sitting. We also have an "anchor" command which is a sit facing forward in between my legs, sitting or standing. Keeping him out of the way is so essential for us because I'm in an urban environment and tight spaces often.
  4. hodge

    hodge I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Thanks for starting this thread, @Kefira. We dogsit part-time for a really good therapy dog, so I'm okay for now. He's my shadow. He's always near me. But if my husband were to die before me ( which is quite possible as he's 17 years older than me), I know I would need a service dog
    SeanCharles, Rain, Justmehere and 2 others like this.
  5. lostforgottensoul

    lostforgottensoul I'm a VIP Premium Member Sponsor $100+

    I am owner training, meaning I owned Chopper as a pet before he became my service dog in training, for 2 years. When I first orginally trained him, he knew 30 commands and all had hand signals.

    We are adding hand signals as we go but you can always add it after they are trained on a cue.

    For me, it's easier to use an exaggerated signal and slowly make it less and less to then end up at the signal you want.

    So for instance, I use a finger turn for Chopper to turn into heel. I started that by using a large lure like arm turn. So a big circle with my arm. And you can say "heel" or whatever cue you have for heel. Soon they will know this large arm movement means to heel. Chopper catches on after a few times. 5 or so or less.

    Then just slowly make it less of a movement until you get to your desired finger movement.

    Not sure about found/were taught a specific system means but hand signals are intuitive for sure. You use hand signals to lure. You just don't realize it. Kikopup, a trainer on youtube, talks a lot about hand signals. Like Chopper's hand signal to sit is my hand, point up, closed a bit, moving over his head, like I were luring him into a sit.

    They pick up on your hands so much that it is the main reason you have to keep your clicker hand up against you and very still.

    Behavioral, I'd say heel, look at me, focus, and leave it are huge right now. Though we are only 2 and a half months into SD training so that will change. He is still reactive. Much better and calmer, MUCH, then he was when we started but still, he has his triggers and moments and so those I cannot do without for sure.

    Thank you for this thread! I learn SOOO much from others teams, more then trainers even. That is why I have seen as many teams on youtube. I learn more from them then the trainers on youtube.
    Rain, Changeling, Justmehere and 5 others like this.
  6. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    Yes, the main hand signals he has are things the people in his organization happen to still cue with lures. I've brought his sit signal in to my body, but it's the same action, and he also has a turn command that's the big arm movement, originally to make him follow in a circle. Anchor has a lure command that's basically a small circle in front of the body, and then an up lure to sit and we've modified that to a point and me raising my hand again over time. I think it's things where he might be a few feet away from me when I need them or things that don't necessarily have an easy lure/are too close to other lure movements because it's situational.

    I will definitely check out Kikopup. I think a lot of it is you pick things up from other teams, but most of the teams I work with were trained in this really voice command based environment, so I just haven't seen a lot of ways to do it. And I read more blogs then watching youtube channels, so for something so visual I don't have a lot of reference :)

    Absolutely. I wondered, because I also am on a SD forum, but I think there could be something really valuable to being able to ask things here since we're a smaller number but are more likely to have a lot of symptoms in common/be working in more similar ways. For instance a lot of the people on the SD forum are using guide dogs or mobility dogs to the point of them being pulling/retrieving dogs primarily. So talking about the additional issues I have or something I need to learn to train because of the PTSD symptoms may or may not go well there.
  7. JustBe

    JustBe Work in progress

    Kikopup is awesome! I've enjoyed her YouTube channel for a long time.

    As for the hand signals that I use, I pretty much speak with my hands so I think my hand signals are intuitive.
    I think over the years my dog has learned to watch me as well as listen and when something I do creates a reaction that I want in her I remember and reinforce it.

    Sometimes I think she trains me as much as I trained her because I watch and listen to her as well and it's a partnership. We find what works and keep doing that and build on it.
  8. Eagle3

    Eagle3 Well-Known Member

    Dog language is primarily body/gesture/facial expression based, so picking up hand signals is pretty easy for dogs. They just have to learn the association with the wanted action. I am on the Autism Spectrum as well as having PTSD, so there are times I just won't talk for whatever reason...triggered or just not feeling that level of interaction that day. Its for days like that the hand signals are so wonderful! It seriously got to the point where I didn't have to use the official "command gesture", I could just think the picture and snap my fingers and the dog would do it. But he's a special guy...

    Three commands that are absolutely essential are: "Leave It!", "Touch", and "Stay"
    - "leave it" is great for any distractions, food on the ground, squirrels in the trees, screaming kids, etc. It will be used about 100 times a day!
    - "Touch" was his cue for pawing or nudging with his nose. This is how I taught him grounding techniques. It later progressed to "shake" for meeting strangers...
    - "Stay" for when I had to drop the leash to take care of business or leave a room for a few seconds. I could use this command in conjunction with a sit, down, or just standing there. I was surprised how often I used this command!

    The key, as with any training, is consistency. Once you find a hand signal that works for you (and this is actually pretty intuitive), then stick with it.

    Great idea for a thread!
    littleoc, Rain, Changeling and 5 others like this.
  9. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    I'm also potentially on the spectrum (symptoms and history match and aren't all explained by PTSD but my dr doesn't want to diagnose since I'm an adult) and I've wondered sometimes if this isn't part of the reason I wanted hand signals enough to train them after the program, whereas most people who wanted them initially just sort of gave in to the "voice commands only" mentality of the program. Hell, I use limited sign language to talk to some of my primary people on bad days.

    Thanks. I figure if a number of us have it watched it could be a great supportive place. I'd like to see what resources everyone likes, for example. But knowing I can have one extra place to go when I have a question or just a bad day (or a training success, because non-handlers just don't get the excitement over breakthroughs as well) is really comforting. :)
    Rain, lostforgottensoul and Eagle3 like this.
  10. lostforgottensoul

    lostforgottensoul I'm a VIP Premium Member Sponsor $100+

    I have a question.

    As I had stated, we are just getting into public access. We have been to my therapist once, early into training. It was only a few weeks in I believe. And being reactive, that was too early and over threshold.

    In the time between then and now, I have been working with him without his vest. I put it on once to help him with learn how to do DPT with the vest as it changes how he does it (and so now when he does it without the vest it is the exact same as with it on). And then more recently when we went to walgreens, also over threshold. That was a few weeks back.

    I am advising over threshold as I think that matters.

    Now that we are accessing the public, I am putting it on him and I just haven't taken it off of him yet tonight. When he is in it walking, he is perfectly fine. Laying down was a challenge for him a bit but that seemed to be ok over a few hrs. I think he is learning how to be comfortable in it. But he can't reach his hindend to lick and he is flipping out each time he can't reach.

    And I feel bad for him as he keeps trying to reach his junk and can't. I did scratch his butt and the sides of his butt in case he had an itch.

    I left it on him for a bit in the house thinking that he's going to have to get used to laying down for long periods of time in it so why not start getting him used to that now.

    I did loosen to up a bit but I want to be careful with that as one of his tasks will be to pull me up so I want to make sure it is snug enough to pull on it's handle in each direction and it not move.

    Do they get used to it or was there a method that helped the transition from non-vested to vested?

    I am sure that he will adjust but I'd like to make thay adjustment as smooth as I can for him.

    When he was at my therapist's he laid down on my feet and was perfectly fine but being over threshold also means stressed so I don't think he cared nor did he feel comfortable enough to lick his junk.

    Any suggestions welcomed. Thanks!
    Rain and Sophie's Daddy like this.
  11. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    Keeping in mind we're running entirely off our program's protocol on all gear/vesting details:

    We have very very strict delineation on what is vested work and what is not. He never would be in vest in the home or in the car. Only for public access, otherwise there's too much encouragement of casual behavior in vest. If he's not going to be doing access work and he doesn't need to be in on duty mode, we don't vest- for example, we went to my mentor's house the other day for a proposal meeting and he was expected to behave but was not vested. For him, it's helpful to have a mat as a "place" that he knows is his, I'm not sure if maybe that would make it easier for your sd to learn to lay in one spot for long periods. He will without a mat, but he knows if he's got a place we're there for a while and he can get comfy. We use that in class and at work.

    If he is in vest for us any sort of grooming or displacement is unacceptable. It makes people uncomfortable and can draw attention, so particularly licking privates would never be permitted in vest and would be corrected. With our organization if a behavior like that became a habit it would be grounds for retraining.

    I haven't ever noticed much issue with vest discomfort. He does have a pocketed vest and a non pocketed vest and shakes more with pockets because the weight will never be totally equal. We also had to try a couple kinds of harness with him, but with his particular build that's what would irritate him because the vest strap placement isn't in sensitive armpit areas or anything.

    ETA: He does wear his harness at all times except for sleeping (to give a break and prevent heatburns). This is a front clip walking harness that he wears with his vest over it. Maybe a simple gear decision like that could help in your situation? The vest tells him whether or not he's working, but since he wears the harness all the time he's used to it and the vest is peripheral as a potential irritation, if that makes sense.
    Rain, Changeling, Eagle3 and 2 others like this.
  12. lostforgottensoul

    lostforgottensoul I'm a VIP Premium Member Sponsor $100+

    Thank you @Kefira! I knew that the vest means he is working but didn't realize that being in it around the home would cause casual behavior to happen when working.

    Have no idea why I didn't know that as they knows a vest/collar/harness equals we're working. Having a blonde moment?

    Well, licking of privates isn't acceptable, that's cool cause he can't get to them anyway lol.

    I understand though. And thank you for the help! :)
    Rain and Kefira like this.
  13. Kefira

    Kefira Well-Known Member

    Like I said, I'm only giving what my org has given, but yeah it was weird to figure out when to vest and not to at first. Especially since we trained in a workshop style at a hotel, so we had to be vested from the car to the room or to go outside, but very strict vest off for transport and once in the room.

    Much easier with at home- we load up in the car without vest (his vest just lives in my car because it's easier and I'll never forget it that way) and then just vest once we get to a store to go in, de-gear at the car and go chill at home again. :)

    None of this is super easy or obvious. I still do really stupid things sometimes and I'm sure I will continue to for years. Like oh, probably I should have thrown a treat pouch in when I switched bags for a 10 hour day, sorry buddy, guess you'll have to get treats when we're home. lol
    SeanCharles, Rain, Changeling and 2 others like this.
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